Opposition leader Raila Odinga has dismissed the forays by Jubilee leaders into Opposition strongholds as old “Kanu-style tactics” that are bound to fail, even as President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto redoubled their efforts in areas that have traditionally supported Cord.
President Kenyatta on Saturday distributed thousands of title deeds in Mombasa while Mr Ruto insisted he would continue hosting cross-party delegations.
The Sunday Nation has learnt that Cord has crafted a plan to counter the government’s efforts in Western, Coast and Gusiiland regions.
A series of public rallies have been planned in areas earmarked by Jubilee as battlegrounds to “erase” any imprints left by the Jubilee teams.
The rallies planned from next weekend will not only request supporters to enlist as voters next month when the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is expected to roll out the exercise, but are also designed to urge them not to be wooed by Jubilee, saying the government had failed these regions.
On Saturday, Mr Odinga downplayed Mr Kenyatta’s charm offensive in opposition strongholds, terming them old-Kanu ways that were defeated in 2002.
“They failed then; they will fail again,” he said.
Mr Odinga questioned the source of the money used to host thousands of delegates at Mr Ruto’s Sugoi home saying “it’s not a product of charity”.
“The land being given out to Coast people was stolen from them. It is merely being returned. It is being returned, not because the grabbers like it, but because the times have changed.
I hope that soon they will start redistributing the land stolen from the people,” Mr Odinga said in an apparent escalation of the war of words between the two sides.
In Mombasa, Mr Ruto hit back, dismissing his critics and saying he would continue hosting delegations.
“If I have visitors coming to my home, how is that your business? Why are you complaining? My wife Rachel would complain if she had too much to cook. But she has not asked you for help.
What is your problem if I host visitors in my home? We should stop funny politics and talk about development issues like the SGR (Standard Gauge Railway), title deeds, education and such,” Mr Ruto said.
House Majority Leader Aden Duale told the Sunday Nation the Opposition had panicked. “As Jubilee, we have a strategy to unify our people through our political party.
As we go into the next General Election, we want to unify all Kenyans regardless of their ethnic and religious background, and we will do it whether it is through public rallies or in town hall meetings.”
The Garissa Township MP said every Kenyan had a constitutional right to meet their leaders.
“We want to sell our policies to people in Western, Coast and any other part of the country, whether we go and do rallies or by taking opinion leaders in large numbers to the Deputy President.
The Constitution provides us with the right to meet with everybody, just the way Raila and Kalonzo (Musyoka) are asking for dialogue with us,” said Mr Duale.
But Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama said Cord would hit the road in the coming week to counter Jubilee’s efforts.
“We will not sit by and watch Kenyans being subjected to another torturous five years of misrule. We will be talking to our people from next week about it,” said Mr Muthama, the Cord management committee co-chairman.
Already, Mr Odinga has visited Kisii where he reminded his supporters of the monumental task that lies ahead and said wananchi had the job of “uprooting the corrupt Jubilee regime”.
The campaigns, which will largely be spearheaded by Cord’s officials such as Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya, Kisii Governor James Ongwae and Senator Chris Obure, will also be addressed by Mr Odinga.
A number of Opposition MPs who spoke to Sunday Nation indicated that the principals - Mr Odinga, Mr Musyoka and Senator Moses Wetang’ula - had asked their lieutenants to stand up and be counted in the face of the Jubilee onslaught.
ODM director of campaigns and Suna East MP Junet Mohamed said the rallies would also be used to promote the Okoa Kenya constitutional amendments call.
“When we go out to remind our supporters of the task ahead, we will also be drumming up support for Okoa Kenya that seeks to cure this country of many ills,” he said.
Another strategy on the table is a warning to lawmakers that whoever does not display loyalty to the party could fail to get Cord’s ticket to defend his or her seat.
As a deterrent, the Opposition is also in the process of identifying alternative aspirants for the seats held by “disloyal” members in readiness for next year’s elections.
Likoni MP Masoud Mwahima (ODM), his Kilifi North counterpart Gideon Mung’aro and Samuel Arama (ODM, Nakuru Town West) are some of the politicians who have openly defied their party positions and thrown their weight behind Jubilee. Some have said they would seek re-election in the newly-formed Jubilee Party.
The wave of defections has left the Opposition handling the tricky question of whether they want to squander time disciplining errant members or whether it is best to ignore them.
There has been a chorus in Mr Odinga’s fold that those who want to work with Jubilee should resign and seek fresh mandate.
Senator Muthama said any “unscrupulous” attempt to buy support in their strongholds would fail. “We are alive to all these machinations.
Remember the millions they spent in by-elections in Bungoma, Kajiado Central, Mathare, Matungulu and Homa Bay, yet they ended up disgraced?
The script will be the same in 2017. They will not match our mobilisation since we are with the people,” he said.
The Opposition’s counter-strategy is meant to lock in what is already in their basket while spreading wings to new frontiers like North Eastern, where Jubilee, particularly URP, did well in 2013.
Wavering in support
A strategist for the ruling coalition said the two-pronged charm offensive in Western and Coast - which dominated the political arena this past week - largely stems from a conviction in Jubilee’s inner circles that these areas that predominantly voted for Cord’s Raila Odinga in 2013 polls are now wavering in their support.
President Kenyatta is camping at the Coast until about next weekend, giving out title deeds and engaging the residents in town hall-type meetings while Mr Ruto has been hosting delegations at his Sugoi home in Uasin Gishu.
“We cannot claim to stand for a united country and still support political parties formed along tribal lines,” Mr Kenyatta told Lamu residents on Friday while drumming up support for his Jubilee party.
The thinking within Jubilee, the Sunday Nation established, is that keeping the larger Mount Kenya and Rift Valley regions under wraps, hoping the simmering dissent in the South Rift and the rebranding of Kanu, as well as Meru Governor Peter Munya’s efforts to champion an alternative political path leaves their fold unscathed, will call for just a few votes from other regions to avoid a runoff.
Mr Duale says that in addition to their traditional support bases, they target a good chunk of Cord strongholds.
“In every political competition, you reach out to the bastion of your competitor to get a slice. In 2013, we never did well in Kisii, Western and parts of Coast; this will change next year since we are addressing issues like cane farming, the squatter problem and economic empowerment in these areas.”
In so doing, Jubilee’s aim is to achieve a first round win in next year’s presidential polls, but with Cord lining up a strong response, only time will tell who will win.
ODM secretary for political affairs Opiyo Wandayi says they have reports that voters are not receptive to Jubilee’s overtures.
“You cannot hoodwink the people with handouts when it is clear that Jubilee is a disappointment on all fronts.
We remain focused on our goal and cannot be distracted by Jubilee’s tired and stale Kanu-era tactics.”
Banking on, among other things, the burden of incumbency, Cord lieutenants are also exuding confidence that they can pull a clear win in the first round, saving them the agony of a runoff.
Mr Ruto on Friday hosted politicians largely from Kakamega County, a meeting that has attracted criticism from the Opposition, with the DP being accused of trying to buy loyalty given that this was preceded by another delegation from Nyamira and Kisii counties.
Feeling the heat, Mr Ruto was later forced to take to social media to explain the purpose of the meeting.